The Five Laws of Library Science

I was thinking about S.R. Ranganathan the other day, and his Five Laws of Library Science.  Just to refresh everyone’s memory:


  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his (or her) book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.


These “laws” really are brilliantly simple, universally applicable and ageless.


The First Law emphasizes use and access – not materials for their own sake.  Of course, Ranganathan believed in preservation and conservation but the focus in this Law is use.


The Second Law is about library collections meeting the needs of the community of users.


The Third Law is similar to the Second, but the focus is on access – making materials easy to find and use.


The Fourth Law emphasizes efficiency – making sure that library rules or processes don’t create barriers to use and easy access.


The Fifth Law is about change and flexibility – libraries must be able to adapt their services, buildings, etc., to meet changing needs.


These Laws have been applied to different aspects of library services such as:


Web resources are for use.

Every user has his or her web resource.

Every web resource its user.

Save the time of the user.

The Web is a growing organism.

(Alireza Noruzi, 2004)


These laws have helped me to stay focused on the customer when thinking about how to deliver services or materials.  The First Law is especially important to keep in mind when we think about interlibrary loan and reciprocal borrowing. Isn’t it always better to have items being used rather than sitting on a shelf?


How have you put these laws into practice in your libraries?

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